Here are some tips for maintaining your perennial garden for best function and beauty.
Mulch beds and borders around the base of any plant that benefits from moisture retention. Do not mulch Irises – let their rhizomes stay dry and breath. Do not pile mulch up high at the base of a plant (called a “mulch volcano”) or you will rot its roots and stems.
Fertilize perennials with Neptune’s Harvest or North Country’s ProGro organic, non-toxic fertilizers that are excellent for a plant’s root development and general health, all of which supports better bloom production. Most perennials do not need heavy fertilization. A single application in spring (after the soil has warmed) is usually sufficient.
Prune any branches or stems that have not produced any growth by now. Take a pair of clean pruners, snips, or even sharp scissors, and cut down to the area of the plant that is exhibiting new growth. Disinfect your tools between each plant so you do not pass any disease from one plant to the other. Many plants become stronger and happier when they are pruned, so you do not need to worry that you’re “hurting it” when you prune a plant.
Why Prune Perennials?
• Increase health and vigor
• Prolong blooming
• Encourage re-blooming or fruit production
• Prevent self-seeding (unless you want it to self seed)
• Controls shape, size, and character
• Stimulates root and shoot growth
• Increases light and air circulation
• Removes or repairs damage/disease
• Overall grooming and freshness of your garden’s appearance
Green Tip: Check in on trees and shrubs too. Lightly prune for shape. Remove any dead wood that did not survive the winter, and does not exhibit leaves or buds. Remove dead canes sticking up from hydrangeas. Deadhead your lilacs and rhododendrons.
Deadhead and Pinch
Deadheading or pinching describes the removal of spent blooms from an annual or perennial. Deadheading also encourages certain plants to produce more flowers and keep re-blooming, or to put energy into their roots and leaves. And in general, it helps the plants look fresher and tidier.
Water newly installed perennials weekly and deeply if no heavy rain fall occurs naturally. The soil should never be overly dry or wet. Avoid getting water on the foliage to avoid disease.
Thinning and dividing certain plants helps them stay healthy by giving their roots and leaves enough room to grow, take up water, and have good air circulation. Choose a cool and cloudy day, ideally before a rain. This will be less stressful for the plant. Trim back the leaves or stems to 6 to 8 inches to make handling easier. Just gently dig up the root ball, divide into smaller clumps, and replant the clumps wherever you like! Prune away dead and damaged tissue, and make sure each section has a portion of roots and leaves — you may need to gently untangle their roots from one another, or slice through them with a sharp tool. Plant divisions as soon as possible, setting the plants at the same depth they were in the original bed. Water the new divisions well, and keep them well watered throughout their first year. Below are plants that benefit from division every several years when they begin to get crowded.
- Bee balm (Monarda)
- Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
- Daylily (Hemerocallis)
- Purple coneflower (Echinacea)
- Blanket flower (Gaillardia)
- Clustered bellflowers (Campanula)
- Lamb’s ears (Stachys)
- Yarrow (Achillea)
Be on alert for insect pests and diseases. These include but are not limited to aphids, asparagus beetles, cabbage worms, cutworms, scale, snails, slugs, leaf spot, mildew, and rust. Address any issue immediately.
Weed and clip any plant suckers that will pull nutrients and moisture from the ground, and generally look unkempt and detract from the beauty of your perennials.
Doing these activities through out the early and mid growing season will keep your plants happy and healthy, and keep your garden looking fresh and cared for.